Sunday, December 13, 2009

Farm Camp - Wrap Up

Farm Camp was over before I knew it. It was a unique experience and great fun. I got back on the train, my trusty chicken in tow, and headed home to New York City. My mind was racing; if “my senses were full” soon after arriving in Shushan, now they were overloaded! We covered a lot of territory over the two days, confronted with the real issues facing upstate farmers and challenged to think of ways we, as city folks, could support them and vice versa. The food products coming out of Washington County are stellar and New Yorkers would be lucky to have greater access to them.

But therein lies one of the biggest hurdles to selling more locally grown food in Manhattan – distribution. How do we get the food to the city in a way that is both economical and time-saving to the farmer? It is a question without a simple answer. Talented people are putting their minds together to make the shift, but it’s a work in progress.

In the meantime I’ll continue to do my bit, informing and encouraging those of you who read my posts to buy local whenever possible. You might not think you have the power to affect change but trust me, you do. Each time you buy Kraft cheese, you’ve missed an opportunity to support a Nettle Meadow
or Consider Bardwell-type cheesemaker. When you opt for Boar’s Head bacon, you just lost the delicious chance to keep a Tamworth pig from becoming extinct. As the popular locavore saying goes, “Vote with your fork”.

I’d be remiss to close out my thoughts on Farm Camp without mentioning Flying Pigs Farm one last time. I can’t say enough good things about Jen, Mike, and Erin. They put their heart and soul into everything they do, whether that be raising their animals, protecting the land, spreading the word about good, local farming, or opening their home for weeks on end to a bunch of strangers from New York City. They are smart, fun, dedicated people and I was grateful to learn from them.

I don't know if another round of Farm Camp sessions are in the works but if New York State is smart with our tax dollars (and Jen and Mike a little crazy...), there will be. I highly recommend it. In the meantime, stop by Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan or Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket in Brooklyn on Saturdays and pick up some of their incredibly delicious pork, chicken, or eggs. You won’t be disappointed.

Roast Chicken

From The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

To cook the bird that had met its demise by my hand, I turned to Alice Waters. This recipe is classic AW – simple, simple, simple and best, best, best. Simple recipe, best ingredients. In my mind I had the absolute best chicken in the world (if I do say so myself!), and fantastic ingredients to go with it: garlic, carrots, and potatoes from Keith’s Farm and salad with mesclun from D’Attolico’s Farm and vinaigrette made with Katz Late Harvest Zinfandel vinegar, an artisanal vinegar I first tasted at Slow Food Nation. My trip had come full circle and I ate one of my most memorable and satisfying meals.

Remove the giblets from the cavity of:

- 1 chicken weighing 3 ½ to 4 pounds

Inside the cavity there are frequently large pads of fat. Pull these out and discard them. Tuck the wing tips up and under to keep them from burning. Season, 1 or 2 days in advance, if possible. Sprinkle inside and out, with:

- Salt and fresh-ground black pepper

Cover loosely and refrigerate. At least 1 hour before cooking, remove and place in a lightly oiled pan, breast side up. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Roast for 20 minutes, turn the bird breast side down, and cook for another 20 minutes. Then turn the breast side up again and roast until done, another 10 to 20 minutes. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

Serves 4

- Put a few tender sprigs of thyme, savory, or rosemary under the skin of the breast and thighs before roasting.
- Put a few thick slices of garlic clove under the skin, with or without the herbs.
- Stuff the cavity of the bird with herbs; they will perfume the meat as the chichen roasts. Don’t hold back: fill the whole cavity.

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